Considered by many to be one of the finest commercial font designs of all time, the Garamond® font family is really more of an overarching “supergroup” of families that includes iterations such as the Apple Garamond™ family, the ITC Garamond® family and the Garamond 3™ family. It is an old-style serif garalde font, which were typically designed during the 16th and 17th centuries, most often in France and Italy.
The Garamond font family owes its name to a bit of historical confusion. Claude Garamond, a famed type designer of the 16th century, did indeed design a typeface with several attributes similar to the modern Garamond, and on which some of the modern Garamonds have been based; however, the majority of contemporary iterations are actually based on a typeface developed by Jean Jannon 60 years after Garamond’s death.
Jannon’s typeface was inspired by Garamond’s original, but had stylistic differences in terms of slope and axis, and was characterized by more asymmetry than Garamond’s design. When France’s National Printing Office reissued Jannon’s work in 1825, they incorrectly attributed it to Garamond. It was not until the middle of the 20th century that scholarly work uncovered the true designer behind the “Garamond” font family.
The 20th century brought several redesigns of the Garamond typeface, including Thomas Maitland Cleland and Morris Fuller Benton’s Garamond 3, which was a repurposing based on Jannon’s work. Digital versions the Adobe Garamond® font family and the Stempel Garamond™ font family were based on Garamond’s work, while the ITC Garamond and Apple Garamond typefaces are considered new designs.
Jannon’s Garamond typeface is distinguished by its unusually shallow “a” bowl and a marked contrast in the strength of its downstrokes and upstrokes. It is considered to be an environmentally friendly font due to the fact that it uses less ink than comparable commercial fonts in printing.
The Garamond design is prominent in many aspects of publishing and media. It has been used in some of the most famous books of all time, including the Dr. Seuss books and the U.S. editions of the Harry Potter series.
Dave Eggers employed it for his popular literary quarterly, McSweeney’s. Many consider the Garamond design to be amongst the most legible typefaces for a print medium.